18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
Alexander McCall Smith on the poet who inspires him,
This review is from: What W. H. Auden Can Do for You (Writers on Writers) (Hardcover)
Alexander McCall Smith has long been fascinated by the poetry - and life - of W H Auden. One of his main characters, Isabel Dalhousie, is a devotee of the poet, while another, Mma Ramotswe, also shares his views on life. As McCall Smith explains, he has "learned so much from this poet. I have bathed in the richness of his language. I have wept over some of his lines. He can be with us in every part of our lives, showing us how rich life can be, and how precious". In this short book, McCall Smith talks about Auden's life and also explains the themes in his poetry which resonates with him.
Prior to reading this book I didn't know much about Auden, other than the fact that he was an English poet and that he was homosexual. In his 20s he travelled widely, living for a time in Berlin and also in Spain (where he had intended to drive an ambulance in the Civil War). At this time, he was close friends with Christopher Isherwood. In 1939 he moved to the US where he lived the majority of his life until his death in 1973.
Many of the themes in Auden's poetry reflect his sexuality, his interest in psychology and politics and his religious beliefs. McCall Smith talks about all of these things as well as picking up on common techniques that Auden used (for example inverting sentences for greater impact, the use of archaic words and personalising inanimate objects). McCall Smith has a conversational writing style which makes this book feel very personal, as if you're sitting down for a chat with him. One of the things that I like about his novels is the way that he seems to think a lot about how to live a better life and that also comes through in this book. I was particularly touched by the way that he talks about spiritual purpose and that religion can be an illogical but moral choice, making a determined commitment to pursue good.
Despite my comparative lack of interest in Auden going in, I enjoyed this book. And I now understand that the cover illustration is a reference to the poem "Musee des Beaux-Arts", where "the dogs go on with their doggy life" while Icarus falls unnoticed into the water behind them.
I received an ARC of this book from Net Galley and the publisher in return for an honest review.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Mar 2014 12:28:34 GMT
Eileen Shaw says:
Will someone please tell me what an ARC is - please - I keep reading it and I don't know - it's driving me crazy!
In reply to an earlier post on 19 Mar 2014 22:06:44 GMT
Julia Flyte says:
Advance Reading Copy. It's what publishers give out to be reviewed before books are published. The book hasn't had its final proofreading done and may have other errors that will be picked up before it goes to print. Often doesn't have the final cover design and other layout elements worked out.
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